Investigation continues into hanging of Otis Byrd - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Investigation continues into hanging of Otis Byrd

Otis James Byrd. Source: MS Parole Board Otis James Byrd. Source: MS Parole Board
Game wardens found Byrd after searching in woods near this home this morning Game wardens found Byrd after searching in woods near this home this morning
Late Thursday, Byrd's body was still at the crime scene. A hearse was on standby. Late Thursday, Byrd's body was still at the crime scene. A hearse was on standby.
Press converges  in front of the Port Gibson court house Press converges in front of the Port Gibson court house
FBI Special Agent In Charge, Don Alway Source: WLBT FBI Special Agent In Charge, Don Alway Source: WLBT
CLAIBORNE COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Officials held a press conference, Friday, regarding the hanging of a man in Claiborne County.

The FBI Special Agent In Charge, Don Alway, says that the State Crime Lab has confirmed that the body found is that of 54-year-old Otis Byrd. 

The cause of death is pending until preliminary autopsy results are complete, which should be sometime next week.

Alway didn't release many specifics regarding the investigation. 

He says they are still trying to find out more about Byrd's life, and that might help them find out potential reasons for his death. 

He also says it is too soon to talk specifics about any evidence found on Byrd's body. 

He did not comment on whether authorities believe this was a suicide or a homicide, but he did address the rumors going around, saying "We're going to hold off on addressing those until the facts give us the answers we are seeking."

The FBI agent says the search for Byrd had been ongoing and that a wildlife officer found him yesterday morning during that search. 

Apparently, law enforcement has been searching a storage shed for some sort for evidence. The FBI won't release where that storage shed is located at this time. 

"The community deserves answers. The family deserves answers," Alway told reporters. He says informing the family of any new information about the case is a top priority for them.

Alway says he wants the public to be patient with the process and that they will try to be as transparent as possible with the public.

Byrd's body was found on a property located off of Rodney Road; about a half mile from Byrd's house.

The Coroner, J.W. Mallett, confirms he was found hanging from a tree using bed sheets.

According to the FBI, Byrd was last seen March 2nd; and his family filed a missing persons report with the Claiborne County Sheriff's Department on March 8th."

We're told that Byrd was last seen when a friend dropped him off at Vicksburg's Riverwalk Casino earlier this month.

His family and friends hadn't heard from him since then.

The NAACP sent an email on Thursday requesting the US Department of Justice "join the current investigation of the suspicious hanging death of Mr. Otis Byrd."

The email goes on to say: "Mr. Otis Byrd's body was [found] today, Thursday, March 19, 2015. After several days of missing, [he] was found hanged to death."

We have also discovered that Byrd had a criminal past. 

According to the Vicksburg Post, Byrd was convicted in the Feb. 7, 1980 robbery and killing of Port Gibson convenience store owner Elizabeth Trim. 

He was paroled in 2006.

The Claiborne County Sheriff, Marvin Lucas, says while the investigation continues people should reserve judgement about the case, "I refuse to bring race into this. Let's remember that a young man died, and regardless of whether he was black or white, that person...if someone murdered him, that person will be brought to justice."

Congressman Bennie Thompson released this statement about the situation: 

“I support the efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies as they work to identify the cause of death and verify the identity of Mr. Otis Byrd. My office has been in close contact with the concerned citizens from Claiborne County, Mississippi and has encouraged them to allow the authorities to conduct a full and thorough investigation. While no conclusions have been reached in this matter, it is important for law enforcement to handle this investigation with the utmost care and consider every possibility. Given the history of the state, it is unavoidable that the hanging of a black man in Mississippi justifiably engenders deeply raw emotions. I hope, if this incident is found to be foul play, these same law enforcement agencies will use every resource available to bring swift justice in this case,”

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